- Parenting is about being a parent not raising children. When you focus on yourself as a couple or as a single parent and grow emotionally and physically, then you will be stronger for your children. Pay attention to yourself so you can provide the attention your children deserve.
- If you love a child hard enough they will love you back. Kids need parents who understand and treat them as “potential” adults. Loving them is only one component of a complex set of rules parents follow to help a child prepare for adulthood.
- If you show your emotions in front of your child, they think you are weak. Emotions are neither good nor bad, but are how we take control of them and use them that will determine how good a parent we are. Children can’t make you feel anything, do anything, or think anything. They are simply not that powerful. But how you respond to your emotions is the critical point. You always have a choice and that choice is to influence and not control your children. Once children learn the connection between choices and consequences, they will begin to make better choices on their own.
- Parenting is hard but it can be rewarding. By embracing the parenting discomfort now you will see the payoff later as your children become adults. If you want your child to eliminate you as a resource for guidance and support, then stop growing. To be the calming influence in their lives, keep growing. It is all about you and not them.
- Give kids their space. As adults we need our space and not just the space to go to get away from all the turmoil. We have to have space to think, plan and evaluate our options. Children also need their space and time to do the same and find out their likes and dislikes, make their own mistakes, and have all the various choices that we can help them experience. Without this space they have two choices. First is to fight against everyone’s efforts to determine their life (the rebellious child) or second, to simply defer to everyone around them (the passive robotic child).
- A child will try to control the situation by going against what we have asked them to do. This is normal and they are testing you to see if you can be trusted. They want to see if you are dependable, stable and consistent. Your child wants you to pass their test. They are challenging you to see if you are responsible “for” them. But as a parent, you don’t want to react to their challenge, but show them you are responsible “to” them and not for them by treating them with respect and gratitude. As in judo, when a match is over the combatants bow to each other as a sign of respect. They are thanking opponents for the chance to improve themselves. As a parent, we shouldn’t take on the challenge, but be the first to bow.
- Never label our children. In our anxiety as a parent we may categorize and label. This may make us feel on top of things and in control. But the labeling places limits on our children. This is the last thing we want to do.
- Don’t try “best friends” parenting. This is the type of parenting, which is used to compensate for the validation we didn’t receive from our parents. It is difficult to set boundaries as a best friend and parents have to do this daily with their children. Our instructions and appropriate structure that we set up for our children need to be applied for our children to help them feel safe and valued.
- Our children need to know we, as parents, are not perfect. Our children need to know they can trust us and our words no matter what. Integrity is doing what you say and following through with what you promised each day.
- As parents we want to raise a child who will think for themselves, act for themselves, and be responsible for their actions. We want them to be a leader and not a follower. They need to follow the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others, and Responsibility for all their actions. Parenting is not easy, but when we finish and see our children being responsible for themselves, we can be proud and embrace both the pain and joy it took for them to become a loving adult.
Kenda L. Smith & Philip B. Smith
Marriage & Family Therapy Interns
Supervised by Laura Carr, LMFT (MFC 38400)